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Victoria city council rejects hearing for short-term rental owners

Coun. Marg Gardiner wanted to give owners a chance to air their grievances about new provincial legislation, but that was voted down.
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The new law, which aims to bring short-term rental units into the long-term rental housing pool, limits short-term rentals to a host’s principal residence as of May, or a basement suite or laneway home on their property. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Victoria city council on Thursday rejected the idea of holding a public hearing to allow residents to air grievances about provincial legislation restricting short-term rentals.

Coun. Marg Gardiner had proposed the hearing, and had hoped to have city staff prepare a report on how the new legislation will affect the city.

The new law, which aims to bring short-term rental units into the long-term rental housing pool, limits short-term rentals to a host’s principal residence as of May, or a basement suite or laneway home on their property.

Fines for hosts who break local bylaw rules will rise to up to $3,000 for each infraction per day. Short-term rental platforms will be required to share data with municipalities.

Some short-term rental owners say they were blindsided by the legislation, and will be forced to sell their units, since long-term market rental rates won’t cover their costs.

Gardiner’s proposal was shot down by her council colleagues, who argued the city is in no position to do anything about the provincial legislation.

Coun. Jeremy Caradonna said holding the meeting would send the wrong message to residents, especially those affected by the legislation. “It would merely be an opportunity for people to grieve or opine about issues over which we have no authority,” he said. “If people have issues with provincial law, they’re welcome to reach out to their MLA.”

Coun. Dave Thompson said such a hearing would look like wasting public funds on grandstanding and politicking, and “definitely not staying in our lane.”

In arguing for the motion, councillors Gardiner and Stephen Hammond read out several accounts from residents who say they are losing thousands of dollars in investments in short-term-rental units.

When the legislation was introduced, the province said it took direction from the City of Victoria, said Hammond, adding: “We are not innocent in this.”

Gardiner said previous councils paved the way for short-term rental units with its land-use decisions, so the city has a duty to at least listen to residents.

aduffy@timescolonist.com